There are many ways that social media tools can benefit a hospital. We’ve discussed several of them on this blog, but there’s a powerful use that sometimes gets overlooked – Crisis Communications
Innovis Health in Fargo, North Dakota is in the middle of a such crisis right now. For the past week Fargo has been threatened by flooding from the Red River. Water levels reached historic 40’+ levels, and large areas of the city are still affected. For several days, Innovis was the only hospital fully open in Fargo and remains the site for Blackhawk helicopter evacuation landings, the Red Cross, a VA satellite office and more.
Carol Russell manages the social media program for Innovis. She is the CEO of Russell Herder, a firm based in Minneapolis, and – along with her partner Brian Herder and two senior staff – has handled outreach communications for Innovis since the crisis started. The team has worked 24/7, gathering information from Innovis staff, writing the blog updates at innovishealth.wordpress.com and handling the Twitter feed, @innovishealth. In addition, they release critical announcements to an extensive traditional and social media networks.
I spoke to Carol about the impact of these tools in an emergency situation. Here’s what she had to say:
“The crisis has clearly proved the value of Social Media in several areas.
First, it decreased demand from the media. Hospital phone lines need to remain open for emergency and family calls, and the blog cut down on many calls from local and national media. We point them to the blog with the promise that all announcements will be posted immediately.
Next, these tools make it easy for us to manage communications remotely. We’re based in Minneapolis and our client is in Fargo, but we’re able to fully assist them and not be in the way.
In addition, by creating this blog we are able to take control of the message. We don’t need to rely on the ability to reach preoccupied local media to publish updates, and there are no concerns about the message getting garbled.
Finally, these tools can be quickly implemented. We created the blog and had it live with the first update in one hour. When messages about service access and patient safety need to get out, it’s absolutely critical to establish a communication channel immediately.”
None of this would matter if no one read the updates, but that’s not the case. Since the blog went up on March 27, over 5,000 people have gone to it for news and updates. The Twitter feed has over 255 followers, and many are passing these updates along to others. In addition, there have been over 1,100 views by reporters of news releases pitched via social media distribution. While the current crisis is far from over, thanks to a major blizzard that exacerbated the situation yesterday, the situation seems to have stabilized somewhat. But even after the flood waters subside, it’s clear that these newly established communication channels will continue to have value for Innovis Health.
Every hospital has a crisis communications plan. Does yours include social media as a tool?